Liberal government signs deforestation pledge, pursues a deal in Amazon rainforest destruction

This year’s Conference of the Parties (COP) in Glasgow has been criticised for being a bunch of blah blah blah. But the pledge to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, signed by over 140 heads of state, looks set to go down as the biggest flop of the conference.

Because despite backslapping by assembled dignitaries, the pledge effectively greenlights another decade of global deforestation – a huge cause of climate change, loss of biodiversity and displacement of Indigenous Peoples. 

Off to a shaky start

The previous New York Forest Declaration of 2014 was also a total failure, but some of us hoped this time would at least be a little better. When authoritarian president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro eagerly signed the deal we should have known something was up.

We have since learned that while the eyes of the world were fixed on the COP in Scotland, Jair Bolsonaro was “withholding” from the public the fact that deforestation in the Amazon is now at its highest levels in 15 years!

Fire line moves through a degraded forest area in an undesignated public forest area in Porto Velho, Rondônia state.
Every year, Greenpeace Brazil flies over the Amazon to monitor deforestation build up and forest fires. From July 29th to 31st, 2021, flights were made over points with Deter (Real Time Deforestation Detection System) and Prodes (Brazilian Amazon Satellite Monitoring Project) warnings, besides heat spots notified by Inpe (National Institute for Space Research), in the states of Amazonas, Rondônia, Mato Grosso and Pará.

Saying one thing, doing another

Many people were concerned that the COP declaration on ending deforestation would end up being a bunch of empty promises. Unfortunately it seems like the Canadian government is a case in point, quickly signing the pledge but quietly continuing to pursue a trade deal in the very commodities (livestock) driving Amazon rainforest destruction.

As Greenpeace uncovered this Fall, the government still intends to resume formal negotiations on a Canada-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement with Brazil, which would see meat imports (the leading cause of deforestation) rise by a massive $1.8 billion every year. 

In other words, instead of condemning the rising murders of Indigenous land defenders and the urgent need to prevent the Amazon from going past the “point of no return,” our government is doing a deal in rainforest destruction for cheap meat.

Cattle in a ranching area, next to a recently deforested and burnt area, in Candeias do Jamari, Rondônia state.
The Amazon is still covered in smoke and torn by criminal and unrestrained destruction, according to overflights produced by the Amazon in Flames Alliance, organized by Amazon Watch, Greenpeace Brazil and the Brazilian Climate Observatory. The expedition took place between September 13th and 17th, in the cities of Porto Velho (Rondônia state) and Lábrea (southern Amazonas state).

Deforestation data a wake up call

If the government won’t listen to the over 55,000 Canadians, human rights activists, farmers, physicians and political parties opposing this dirty deal, then maybe they’ll listen to the facts.

Since President Bolsonaro came to power, deforestation rates have increased a staggering  52.9%, in large part driven by deforestation for industrial meat that would be exported to Canada in huge volumes if the deal goes ahead. Just this past October an area of 796 km2 was deforested, making it the second worst October in historical records. 

For his entire 3-year rule, the Bolsonaro administration has proposed a series of bills that threaten Indigenous rights and  give the green light for further rainforest destruction.

Holding Justin Trudeau accountable

Commitments matter. By committing to end deforestation in public, Justin Trudeau now has to do the actual work to make it a reality. That’s how leadership works.

The Prime Minister himself reminded us this summer that “we are only as healthy as our environment”. I’d like to remind him that includes the Amazon rainforest, a vast, biologically and culturally diverse landscape storing enormous amounts of carbon and freshwater.

You can remind him too by signing our petition to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly.

The first step towards ending deforestation globally is ending this trade deal in Amazon destruction. Let’s make it a reality.